The other day I wrote about a problem that developed on my normal daily cycling route whereby trucks, leaving a new construction site, began depositing a ridiculous amount of dirt and gravel on the bike path leading away from the site – forcing me to ride in traffic on a dangerous stretch of road.
I emailed the general contractor to explain the situation and included four photos to illustrate the problem. I also tried several times to contact the project manager (PM) for the site by phone, to no avail. After the fourth attempt resulted in another option to leave a voice message, I called back and talked to the receptionist about the problem. There are some important tips that I can pass along that ended up in a satisfactory conversation in which the receptionist saw my concern and became engaged in getting it resolved.
The first important thing to understand is that a receptionist is NOT in the chain of command – barking demands at a receptionist would have resulted in pissing her off, not in her taking my concern seriously. I was kind and courteous, not angry. Also, it wasn’t her fault that the PM wasn’t answering his phone (the likely result of my email getting him in hot water with his superiors). I calmly and politely explained each point made in my email. This was on Thursday, on Friday morning the road was still dirty. Rather than call again, I decided to give it one more day, too much persistence when they’re attempting to resolve a problem can lead to resentment, so I figured I’d hold off until Monday to call back.
Lo and behold, they’d gotten it done some time Friday afternoon. I drove by Friday evening and the road and bike path were sufficiently cleaned up.
This was a very “political” situation, the ramifications of which may never be fully realized. If my email got the PM in enough trouble, I could have ended my chances at doing work for the company until he moves on. On the other hand, I handled it in a respectful enough manner that the situation could help me professionally – time will tell on that.
On a purely get it addressed and done level, I believe I handled it the best way possible – start mild and build intensity if the issue is not addressed. This covers most scenarios well, while escaping the common pitfall of too much too hard, too fast and too angry – and risk alienating anyone in the company that would be sympathetic to my situation… And in this case, I didn’t have to get nasty, but I reserved the option to, should the situation demand it.